Yep, still in Isaiah. Settle in. We’ll be here for a while.
But, in the New Testament, in case you need a little reprieve from all the prophecies, we’ll look at two of Paul’s epistles (fancy word for letters – use it at parties – it will make you sound smart and holy). This week we read Galatians and Ephesians.
As you begin Ephesians, read it with this in mind: Paul was in prison when he wrote it. Even in the opening verses, as Paul exclaims, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places,” (Ephesians 1:3). His joy and faith are evident.
Though I hope to never be imprisoned for my faith, I hope my joy and eagerness to share Christ are comparable to that of Paul.
How do you respond when God calls you? You may think, “Umm…I’m not sure He has”.
In this week’s reading, we read Isaiah’s call, his immediate response, and then his ultimate response. Isaiah is called to be God’s prophet and, specifically, to tell his own people that God will destroy them and send them into exile if they don’t shape up and repent.
Like many others called in Scripture, Isaiah offers the response, “Here I am”, offering himself as willing to follow God. Also like many others, he then offers an excuse of why he cannot do what God is calling him to.
I, too, am an excuse maker. Are you? Do you continually think up reasons why God’s plan for you isn’t the right one? Are you always able to come up with reasons why you can’t serve, commit fully to God, tithe, or whatever else he’s calling you to?
This week, and in the weeks to come, we can also learn from Isaiah what it looks like to jump onboard God’s plan full steam ahead. Read on. It’s worth it.
This week we finish Job and begin Ecclesiastes – Ecclesiastes is a fascinating book that accompanies Job and Proverbs in the wisdom literature.
We also spend time in 2 Corinthians. It’s important to note that 2 Corinthians is the second letter from Paul to the church he’s already written once (there aren’t two separate churches). Paul’s letters are written to various churches he either established or supports and each is addressing specific struggles that church is facing. Some struggle with unity, others with discerning how to balance their Jewish heritage with Christian beliefs, and others are unclear on the finer points of salvation.
When reading Paul’s letters, we must remember that they were written to a different group of people in a different cultural context, but the truths of faithfulness and connecting with Christ are still applicable today. I.e. Don’t get too hung up on the instruction not to wear your hair in a braid, but do absorb the encouragement not to do anything that would distract others in worship.
Tomorrow we begin Job, which is widely regarded as the oldest book in the Old Testament, and therefore, the Bible. Job is challenging in a number of ways, but the main reason is: Job was righteous. Why does God allow him to be tormented?
Though not intended as a complete explanation, hopefully these thoughts will shift our thinking from something along the lines of, “why is God so mean?” to “what was really happening here and what came of it?” Take a second to think through these thoughts:
- God was not the one doing the tormenting.
- For the majority of the book, Job, who is being tormented, defends God.
- Job’s friends are certain they can explain Job’s suffering. No one can explain suffering.
- God gave Job his blessings. It is his choice to take them away as well. But note that God abundantly blesses Job again in the end.
I won’t try to explain what happened to Job in this book or how God operates or why we suffer, etc. Hopefully the above thoughts will at least add a few bumper lanes as you read this challenging book.
The exile was one of the most significant events in the history of the Israelites. It’s hard for us to understand, but the Israelites might have felt a little like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz felt. They were plucked from everything they knew and plopped down in a land where they didn’t know the culture and had no freedom or ability to live their normal lives. To make it worse, they had lost what made them special, their unique connection with God.
In our current Old Testament book, Ezra, and the one following, Nehemiah, we get to read about the Israelites’ return from exile. If you imagine that it would be a rocky transition, you’d be right. If you imagine that the former captors would have trouble giving up control. You’d be right.
Take the time to read these less familiar books and try to put yourself in the position of the Israelites though it’s something very difficult for us to imagine.
What’s your view of God? I’m not asking for you to draw a picture here, but what characteristics do you think of? What kind of personality do you envision?
One of the biggest questions people have regarding God is whether he is actually good or not. They see suffering in the world and natural disasters and wonder how God could possibly be good. Some even take it a step further and read part of the Old Testament and see people killed for what seem like small mistakes. And though we don’t have time to answer the ENORMOUS question of whether God is good or not, I think this week’s reading in Chronicles will help.
As King Hezekiah tries to draw the Israelites back to faithfulness and reinstates celebrating Passover, which had long since fallen by the wayside, he does it imperfectly. The people are unclean and all the specified standards aren’t met…but God is pleased none the less.
So why was his effort acceptable and others’ in Scripture were not? We can look back on a powerful verse: “The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).
This week we continue in 2 Chronicles and Romans, and as always, our good friends Psalms and Proverbs. In today’s 2 Chronicles reading we hear a story we learned once before in 2 Kings, but it’s worth, once again, exploring, thinking about, and weighing the consequences.
Rehoboam, King David’s grandson, had a guaranteed path to the throne, but he wanted power and control and listened to terrible advice in order to get it. He didn’t trust God’s promises to get him where he needed to be. He tried to flex his muscles to get there instead. And it failed.
Rehoboam didn’t just fail himself. His consequences are still felt today. He caused Israel to become a divided kingdom and weaken tremendously. This put them at risk of being conquered, which they were, and exiled, which they were.
Too often we fail to follow God in our decisions and weigh our consequences. This week, let’s learn from Rehoboam’s mistakes.
Last week we got a brief synopsis of salvation – the basic high points. This week we’ll get to dive into Romans and the nitty-gritty of salvation a little more. We will celebrate that God is so good and loves us so much that we can have true salvation. He sent his Son to die for us! That’s pretty incredible.
Forgive me a small tangent – when I was a kid we only got play shoes twice a year unless something crazy happened. So one summer I got new white tennis shoes. My older brother and sister told me it wasn’t cool to have white shoes and that I needed to dirty them up, so I rolled them in the dirt. My mom was understandably furious! Why? Because you don’t take something new, clean, and great and roll it in the dirt.
This week we’ll learn something new about the gospel. We weren’t given this free, wonderful gift of salvation so that we could roll it in the dirt – aka – sin a bunch. We were given the free gift so we could grow closer to Christ and know and love him more.
This week in the New Testament, after a shipwreck and a little more evangelism by Paul, we move to the book of Romans. Romans is our first of Paul’s letters to read but was not his first to write, in fact, it was one of his later letters, probably written during his third missionary journey.
Though this won’t all happen in this week’s reading, you will find through your reading in Romans, that it is the most complete picture of God’s desire to be in relationship with humanity. There is also a deliberate path to salvation for all people. Some people even call it “The Romans Road”.
And though we definitely want you to read the entire letter, here are the components of “The Romans Road”:
This week we finish 2 Kings and begin 1 Chronicles. The end of 2 Kings is the beginning of Judah’s exile. At this point, we’ve already seen Israel enter exile, but Judah held out a little longer.
Quickly, before we jump into the historical accounts of the Chronicles, let’s recap the highlights of what got us to the point of both the northern and southern kingdoms being in exile:
- The Israelites demand a human king and reject God as their king.
- Rehoboam, the 4th king of united Israel is unfair and unkind to his people so they refuse to follow him. The majority of the Israelites follow Jeroboam and form the kingdom of Israel.
- Israel as much weaker as two kingdoms.
- Twenty kings in a row of the northern kingdom of Israel are evil.
- Twelve of the twenty kings of the southern kingdom of Judah are evil.
- The Israelites of both kingdoms worship other gods and forsake their part of the covenant.
So as we read, this week, about God turning away from the Israelites, remember that he is not unkind and hateful. The Israelites turn their back on God over and over until he has no choice but to allow them to face their consequences.
Reading these consequences sure makes you think about your daily decisions, doesn’t it?